Last month, Joan Ginther of Bishop, Texas purchased a $50 scratch-off lottery ticket at a local convenience store and won $10 million. Pretty cool, huh? But most amazing of all is that this is the fourth time—fourth time!—that she’s won the Texas Lottery jackpot, totaling $21 million in winnings.
The chances of that occurring are 1 in 18 septillion—that’s 18 followed by 24 zeros.
Strangely enough, she should know better than to play the lottery. You see, she earned a doctorate from Stanford University in 1976 and spent a decade on the faculty of several colleges in California…teaching math!
What did she do to deserve a life like this? Nothing. She’s a relative recluse and hasn’t lived an abnormally exemplary life. But she did display an amazing amount of faith.
Please join me today to discover how you can win more than Joan Ginther without doing anything!
INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
1 Chronicles 24:1-27:34. Long lists of Levites, priests, and temple musicians may seem irrelevant to you and me. Considering that this book was complied approximately 500 years after David, it may appear that the list was irrelevant when it was completed as well. But foundations are important. The Chronicler was not only explaining the genealogy of their current leadership, but he was also connecting them to their spiritual roots. This, then, became the model Israel would follow as they sought to return to the glory of their past.
Romans 4:1-5:5. Scripture repeatedly drives home an important message: pain isn’t always bad. Paul writes in Romans 5:3-4, “But we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”
Psalm 13:1-14:7. In Psalm 13, David expresses his feeling of abandonment by God. “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?” But rather than allow himself to wallow too long, he concludes this short psalm/poem with these words: “I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me.” Rather than define God by his present feelings, he brings perspective by remembering God’s faithfulness in the past.
Not-so-coincidentally, Psalm 14:3 was quoted by Paul in yesterday’s reading (Romans 3:10-12). While lamenting the depravity of humanity, David writes, “Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!
Proverbs 19:15-17. Two of these proverbs really stand out to me…
Verse 16 says, “He who obeys instructions guards his life, but he who is contemptuous of his ways will die.” Obedience isn’t much of a value in our society (unless you’re raising kids). Everyone wants to live as they please; the rebel without a cause has become our hero. But in the kingdom of God, obedience—especially to God—can save our lives. The Message paraphrases the beginning of the verse to say, “Keep the rules and keep your life.”
Verse 17 tells us, “He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward him for what he has done.” The kindness we show to the needy is equivalent to a loan we give to God. Best of all, God pays us back with interest. It may not come back in the form of money, but we all receive more than we give. Generosity lies at the core of our love for God.
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THE WORD MADE FRESH
Joan Ginther’s string of successes playing the Texas Lottery is pretty amazing. Although I know better than to play the lottery, I do admire the fact that the game is no respecter of persons. Anyone can win—young, old, educated, uneducated. No one earns their winnings…they just play.
In the same way, Paul explains in our reading from Romans 4 that God is no respecter of persons when it comes to establishing a right relationship with him. It’s available to anyone—young, old, educated, uneducated, upstanding citizen or career criminal.
Did you get that? Paul makes a pretty bold statement: God even justifies the wicked (verse 5). In other words, some people with extremely sordid backgrounds enjoy a much more solid relationship with God than some pretty good people.
The point Paul is driving home is the fact that none of us can do anything to earn a good relationship with God. If we can be good enough, then God is obligated to reward us with eternal life with him in heaven. But up to this point, Paul has shown that no is truly good.
That means all of us need help.
The only thing we can do is place our faith in God to save us. In verse 21, Paul defines faith as “being fully persuaded that God [has] power to do what he [has] promised.” Later in Romans, Paul explains that this is only possible because of Jesus’ death on the cross.
Giving to the poor guarantees nothing. Nor does volunteering for a worthy nonprofit organization, going to church, praying every day, paying your taxes, demonstrating your patriotism, or living a “good” life. Only one thing brings us into a right relationship with God: faith.
If you’ve spent your life trying to earn God’s love or trying to be good enough to be welcomed into heaven, STOP! All you need to do is acknowledge that you can’t be good enough and that you need him to save you.
Then believe it.
If you do, then you’ve won something far greater than Joan Ginther’s riches.
- What spoke to you in today’s reading?
- In your opinion, do most religious people believe they have to do something to win God’s approval? Why or why not?
- Has this ever been true of your life? How?
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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.